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A Tale of Two Cities

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Such a man came upon him, like a ghost, at noon in the July weather, as he sat on his heap of stones under a bank, taking such shelter as he could get from a shower of hail. One such man came to him, like a ghost, at noon one day in July. The repairer of roads was sitting on his pile of stones under a bank as he took shelter from a hail shower.
The man looked at him, looked at the village in the hollow, at the mill, and at the prison on the crag. When he had identified these objects in what benighted mind he had, he said, in a dialect that was just intelligible: The man looked at him, looked at the village in the hollow, looked at the mill and at the prison on the crag. When he had seen these, he said in a dialect that was almost unintelligible:
“How goes it, Jacques?” “How’s it going, Jacques?”
“All well, Jacques.” “All is well, Jacques.”
“Touch then!” “Touch then!”
They joined hands, and the man sat down on the heap of stones. They joined hands and the man sat on the pile of stones.
“No dinner?” “No lunch?”
“Nothing but supper now,” said the mender of roads, with a hungry face. “Nothing but dinner now,” said the repairer of roads, looking hungry.
“It is the fashion,” growled the man. “I meet no dinner anywhere.” “It’s the same everywhere,” complained the man. “No one has any lunch.”
He took out a blackened pipe, filled it, lighted it with flint and steel, pulled at it until it was in a bright glow: then, suddenly held it from him and dropped something into it from between his finger and thumb, that blazed and went out in a puff of smoke. He took out a blackened pipe, filled it, and lit it with flint and steel. He puffed on it until it was glowing brightly, then suddenly held it away from him. He took something between his finger and thumb and dropped it into the pipe. It blazed and went out in a puff of smoke.
“Touch then.” It was the turn of the mender of roads to say it this time, after observing these operations. They again joined hands. “Touch then.” This time the repairer of roads said it after watching the man put the object in his pipe. They joined hands again.
“To-night?” said the mender of roads. “Tonight?” asked the repairer of roads.
“To-night,” said the man, putting the pipe in his mouth. “Tonight,” said the man, putting his pipe in his mouth.
“Where?” “Where?”
“Here.” “Here.”
He and the mender of roads sat on the heap of stones looking silently at one another, with the hail driving in between them like a pigmy charge of bayonets, until the sky began to clear over the village. He and the repairer of roads sat on the pile of stones looking silently at each other. The hail was falling between them like tiny bayonets, and then the sky began to clear over the village.
“Show me!” said the traveller then, moving to the brow of the hill. “Show me!” said the man, moving up the hill.
“See!” returned the mender of roads, with extended finger. “You go down here, and straight through the street, and past the fountain—” “See!” answered the repairer of roads, pointing with his finger. “You go down here, and straight through the street, and past the fountain—”
“To the Devil with all that!” interrupted the other, rolling his eye over the landscape. “I go through no streets and past no fountains. Well?” “To hell with that!” interrupted the man, looking over the landscape. “I don’t go through the streets or past any fountains. Well?”
“Well! About two leagues beyond the summit of that hill above the village.” “Well! About two

leagues

a distance between 2.4 and 4.6 miles

leagues
past the top of the hill above the village.”
“Good. When do you cease to work?” “Good. When do you finish work?”
“At sunset.” “At sunset.”
“Will you wake me, before departing? I have walked two nights without resting. Let me finish my pipe, and I shall sleep like a child. Will you wake me?” “Will you wake me up before you leave? I have walked two nights without stopping. Let me finish my pipe and I’ll sleep like a baby. Will you wake me?”
“Surely.” “Of course.”
The wayfarer smoked his pipe out, put it in his breast, slipped off his great wooden shoes, and lay down on his back on the heap of stones. He was fast asleep directly. The traveler smoked the rest of his pipe and put it in his pocket. He took off his big wooden shoes and lay down on his back on the pile of stones. He fell asleep immediately.
As the road-mender plied his dusty labour, and the hail-clouds, rolling away, revealed bright bars and streaks of sky which were responded to by silver gleams upon the landscape, the little man (who wore a red cap now, in place of his blue one) seemed fascinated by the figure on the heap of stones. His eyes were so often turned towards it, that he used his tools mechanically, and, one would have said, to very poor account. The bronze face, the shaggy black hair and beard, the coarse woollen red cap, the rough medley dress of home-spun stuff and hairy skins of beasts, the powerful frame attenuated by spare living, and the sullen and desperate compression of the lips in sleep, inspired the mender of roads with awe. The traveller had travelled far, and his feet were footsore, and his ankles chafed and bleeding; his great shoes, stuffed with leaves and grass, had been heavy to drag over the many long leagues, and his clothes were chafed into holes, as he himself was into sores. Stooping down beside him, the road-mender tried to get a peep at secret weapons in his breast or where not; but, in vain, for he slept with his arms crossed upon him, and set as resolutely as his lips. Fortified towns with their stockades, guard-houses, gates, trenches, and drawbridges, seemed to the mender of roads, to be so much air as against this figure. And when he lifted his eyes from it to the horizon and looked around, he saw in his small fancy similar figures, stopped by no obstacle, tending to centres all over France. As the repairer of roads worked his dusty job, the hail clouds moved away to reveal streaks of sky, and the sun gleamed on the landscape. The little repairer of roads, wearing a red cap now instead of his blue one, seemed fascinated by the man sleeping on the heap of stones. He looked toward him so often that he did his work mechanically, and, one might say, badly. The tan face, the shaggy black hair and beard, the coarse wool red cap, the homemade clothes, the hairy skin, the strong frame that had been weakened by poverty, and the way he tightened his lips desperately while he slept, inspired awe in the repairer of roads. The traveler had traveled far, and his feet were sore from walking. His ankles were chafed and bleeding, and his big shoes were stuffed with leaves and grass and must have been heavy to drag over the long distance. There were holes worn in his clothes and sores all over his body. The repairer of roads crouched down beside him and tried to see if he had any weapons hidden in his shirt or anywhere else. But he didn’t see any, because the man was sleeping with his arms crossed in front of him as tightly as his lips were closed. Fortress towns with their stockades, guardhouses, gates, trenches, and drawbridges seemed nothing compared to this man. When he turned his eyes to the horizon and looked around, he imagined he saw other similar figures, unstoppable, traveling to villages all over France.

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